Tag Archives: friendship

Lesson Twelve – ‘Everyday Friendships’

Lesson Twelve – ‘Everyday Friendships’

Smile Talk

When I was a young girl, I was often berated for not smiling or for appearing unhappy. I was a happy enough child but very contemplative, and often lost in thoughts or observations in what was happening around me.

I couldn’t possibly make myself smile. I was too distracted trying to camouflage myself in my surroundings. I was desperate to witness that heated discussion of the couple nearby, or to subtely listen to the school girls behind me on the bus while I pretended to read.

I was shy and very unsure of myself. I couldn’t force a smile as I was too afraid to talk to others, and being berated for not constantly smiling wasn’t going to encourage me to do so.

I was too lost in my little stories of my imagination, and I was not very good at small talk. Strangely I just accidentally wrote smile talk (since corrected) – which is an apt description of what I’m attempting to write about.

Smile Talk

That is, that friendly small talk you have with someone next to you on the bus, or at the playground. You catch their eye, smiling at them, and conversation is initiated.

You find yourself smiling throughout the whole exchange of pleasantries. Afterwards, you feel content and happy that two people can have a random interaction, and it feels as though there is harmony surounding you.

I can’t help but think if I’d been better at this skill at school it would have been easier to make friends. I was the new girl four times at school, and it was a gut-wrenching experience. Each time, I would look for my bosom friend (‘Anne [of Green Gables‘] and Diana style). I would resolve to myself at the start of each school year to talk to more people and not to be so shy, but my blushing severely impaired this resolution. I was so shy that if I needed to talk to the bus driver as I hopped on the school bus (probably to explain my baby sister’s missing bus pass), a slow queue would often build behind me, and I would redden.

I would try and answer questions (only ones that I was very confident with), but the embarrassment of putting my hand up would mean my cheeks would be red once the teacher gave me her full attention. I could barely get my answer out and my confidence quickly dissolved. Laughter permeated the classroom at my discomfort.

I often went days not talking to anybody in class, only saying ‘hi’ at recess or lunch in our small circles. During my early high school years, I was often on the sideline of these conversations, and found it very hard to contribute. I witnessed the golden friendships being formed around me and often felt as though I was the third wheel.

Year 9 was when I had my first inklings of real friendship at school, and my dreams of sleepovers and hanging out started to come true, but it was not to last. This is not a good year for the development of girls – we all seem to be trying to force our way out of girlhood and will resist anybody who stands in our way. My small circle was soon due to for a shake up.

After many arguments, negative commentaries and outrageous break ups – new little pockets of friendships were formed, I didn’t belong in any of them. I suddenly to endure much harassment and derision for my introspection, labelled ‘snobbery’, and there was bullying for the months that followed. Thankfully, I found a disabled toilet to spend lunchtimes in, and finally, the anger dissipated.

Somehow, I found somebody who didn’t mind that I was quiet (she was even quieter), and we could sit in our own little corner away from the negativity, talking about our heart’s desires.

That girl was my first ‘Diana’ – and I’m so lucky that I still have her to confide in at anytime, almost 18 years later!

This was the first real friendship and to have this pure understanding gave me a huge boost. This confidence has built over the years (independent travel definitely helped). I slowly found that I became less hesitant with my smile and more open to new people.

Once I felt that kindred understanding,  I was on my way to seeking out more friends.  I have found that the easiest way, is to start with a smile and to proceed purely by just, being nice!

I’ve moved universities and to new countries, and have thrown myself into new social settings (as nervous as it still makes me feel). ‘Smile talk’ turns into coffee dates, and slowly you find yourself chatting to somebody who was once a stranger, is now an essential part of your day.

I am blessed that I have gone on to have many meaningful relationships with a wide group of friends since school – and these friends have helped me through many teary days as relationships have ended or hospital stays.

My chronic pain has complicated relationships for me and has often meant, through my honesty, that I have become closer with others faster, as I have had to explain some ordeal that is going on with my health at the time (one such shocker was a painful miscarriage during my first semester of my postgrad degree – oh what a horrendous time, but I’m grateful for the girls there with me) .

Whilst living away from home these friends were my family, and I think of them still (and will always) with so much love and appreciation. I could not have got through those times or been who I am today without them.

I haven’t wanted to demonstrate how my shyness left me lonely, but rather to illustrate the importance of real meaningful friendships, and the benefit that they can give to you. I’m also attempting to explain (or to teach my girls), that often igniting powerful friendships can start simply with a smile.

It is so much easier to make friends once you have children! My girls have been my gateway to friendships as you can comment on similar snacks/screams/nappies that you see another Mum use, and suddenly you are chatting happily away with a stranger about all your personal trials and tribulations!

I met one of my dearest closest friends by merely sharing smiles. We’d pass each other on our morning walk with our newborn baby girls – usually one of us going in or out of our apartment building. It took one of us (me), to ask if we could start heading out on walks together at a prearranged time for a change. The walks turned to morning coffee and now, with our almost four year old girls (also best friends), we have had many great play dates and mornings together and we’d be lost without that friendship.

Being unwell has cemented the need for powerful friendships, as I have often had to rely on people in a way that would probably look uncomfortable on paper. But my gorgeous girl friends make helping out seem so natural that I’ve been able to turn to them for anything from regular childminding during my uni days, help to drs appointments, play dates, hospital pick ups and once even taking my daughter to her gym class (most of this list from the one amazing friend)!

My lesson to my daughters is, although this has taken me more than twenty years to realise – is to see everybody as a potential friend, and to smile your shyness and discomfort away. You’ll soon find people wanting to talk to you – and conversations enrich your daily experience. I learn so much from my beautiful friends every day.

I still observe people keenly and find human behaviour fascinating,  but I save my contemplative moments for when I’m by myself and find myself smiling when out and about (without having to think about it like I once did). If all else fails – talk about how beautiful someone else’s baby is (as all babies are) – you will surely make a friend easily then!

 

Best friends from birth, flower girls at my wedding (2011), and a new baby girl added to the circle in 2012. By 2017, we now also have two gorgeous boys who make us laugh. Beautiful things can grow out of a smile.

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication: I dedicate this post to my friend Kamila, who has always got my back, and will let me rant and vent about my health and personal issues, without ever judging me.  I feel so grateful that we both rented the same dodgy apartment in the most beautiful location opposite Mort Bay Park. The walking and talking we enjoyed every day made early motherhood so much easier to bear, and are treasured memories. Thank you Auntie Mila xxxxxxx

 

 

Lesson Six – Oh, the places you’ll go……

Lesson Six – Oh, the places you’ll go……

Lesson Nine

Once your formative school years are behind you, the world is waiting for you to dance upon.

My next lesson is about dreaming, and in the understanding that once you start to unravel the true tenor of one dream you may find yourself starting all over again, or outside your self-designed dreamscape.

I had very clear goals for when I left school. I had saved and booked into an exclusive private college where I was going to study Journalism. A few weeks into my course I found that the structure was very restricted and the timetable and homework were reflective of school practice, and I wanted out.

In danger of losing a lot of money, a second option was presented by the college which was to study their Book Editing and Publishing Course. Although the course was fairly mundane and I made no friends (and had to sit there each week quietly alone at a desk by myself feeling forlorn), I did make some use of my time there. I had finally started to immerse myself in the world of my true passion – Literature.

Curiously, it was the part time job that I got at a local bookshop – solely because of my recent Diploma course, that led me to study English Literature at University. I worked alongside a hip young group of undergraduates from the local university who were all passionately engaged in University life.

I quickly learnt that my unexpected withdrawal from college had drifted me towards my true dream thanks to the people I encountered (the experience of working with great people was tempered by being managed by a cantankerous boss, but that was all a part of that time). I had been too scared and too limited in my ambitions as I had thought Literary study too indulgent and not serious enough. I hadn’t realised that you could go to University to study areas that interested you, and to worry about connecting them to career pathways later. I had always been a worrier, and I finally started to conceive of the big dream as I went along.

When I was at Auckland University, my two close friends were a 30 something single mother who partnered cynicism with very dry humour in a Julia Morris sort of way, and a cyclopean Samoan ex-bouncer who loved playing ‘War of Warcraft’. I was drawn to them by their passion and enthusiasm for History and their ability to converse and fervently debate historical issues without self doubt or fear of being in the wrong. I would watch incredulously (because I was still a shy 20 year old) and think – but shouldn’t we be doing something else useful today…other then sit here all day discussing the true beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement..or who the greatest thinkers were in History? For the first time in my life I encountered passionate people pursuing their interests in a professional way. I was inspired to further my love of English Literature and no longer saw it as something frivolous or indulgent.

I changed universities three times over my three degrees and each time I met people who challenged my thinking and my understanding of the world and pushed me closer to dreams I wasn’t aware I was chasing. I am forever grateful to those friendships as they left indelible impressions upon me. Every experience changes you and contributes to the way you build your life and dreams.

I started my last degree, a postgraduate Bachelor of Teaching as a single mid twenty year old, and ended up having to delay my courses and meet half a dozen new cohorts as child rearing took over. I finished my last teaching Prac 6 months pregnant with my second, and studying History (Ancient Roman History, a topic I’d never previously looked at) with the most difficulty I’ve ever had. I remember staying up late, pregnant, emotional, tired, and doing my best to get all the Caesars in the right order as i was teaching a Year 12 class. Fortunately, I had the most wonderful supervising teacher, who really helped my confidence and inspired me to learn more about Ancient Rome. I thank him for my current obsession with that time period.

My discussion on some of my own post school learning experiences, and the ways that they’ve contributed to my current state of happiness ends here for now, with a reminder to my girls, and other readers to see the world with shiny eyes and when ‘things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.’

– from Dr Seuss ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’

 

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by Elissa in Lessons Tags: ambitions, career, debate, dr seuss quote, dream, dreaming, friendship, goals, happiness, i worry, passion, school, study, thinking, University, worry

Lesson Five – Find a Friend to Lean on

Lesson Five – Find a Friend to Lean on

Lesson Seven

Friendships have been written about using all kinds of cliches and cheesy phrases.

Love has been ravaged and anointed in the same way.

I’m going to make this lesson simple. Work hard on being honest and opening up to the people around you – family, school mates, uni friends and colleagues. These people will all come in and out of your life depending on where you are living, travelling, or how intrusive work life is for them or you.

When you can, spend long insouciant hours in the playground, coffee shops or pubs opening up about your life story and who you really are. Open up your heart by listing your worries and fears, and listen to theirs.

Work hard on this. Your work or study or boyfriend will always (hopefully) be around. It is not a waste of your time to be having girly girl chats.

I say girly girl chats, because in my experience girls have always beautifully featured in my life in this way. I’ve never had a close male friend, except for my husband. But this will always be a different relationship to the one you have with your girlfriends.

BECAUSE when you are having a burdensome run of events, you will need someone who you can just call on and unload to and not be judged or lectured to or misunderstood.

Find that friend and treat them well.

And finally, from another literary great who can astutely embody my lesson with a few words:

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis

Dedication: to all those women out there who I have called on in tears. I heartfully thank you for being in my life.

Follow up: Since I wrote this post, my darling first born has started school. I thought I had seen the best of female friendships, but nothing had prepared me for the ways women go completely above and beyond once you are part of a school community. Having my third baby, suffering surgeries….pain, and other issues made getting Mj to and from school very hard. Having women drop off dinners, some of whom I barely knew, was life saving. Some picked up and dropped off my daughter many days in a row….their kindness suprising me in ways that made me want to almost cry. I thank you ladies, I could not have survived kindergarten and a newborn without you. You women were truly generous, and I am still so grateful.